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Examine the contribution of sociologists to understanding the ways in which the media portray disability and age.

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Introduction

Kim Dale Examine the contribution of sociologists to understanding the ways in which the media portray disability and age. Sociologists are interested in discovering how the disability and age are represented in the media because they want to find if these representations truly reflect life of the disabled and aged or if they merely create views for the public to absorb and use to effect. I will deal with the issue of disability within the media first. Research conducted by sociologists such as Cumberbatch and Negrine found that disabled people were predominately portrayed as figures that we should pity, and the media do present stereotypical and stigmatised views of the disabled. Longmore (1987) found that the disabled were seen as dependant, maladjusted or even evil, this can be seen in such cases as 'Chris' in "Emmerdale." They are also portrayed as being courageous and heroic for coping with their 'misfortune'. On the video 'Disability Portrayal' they expressed that, "Documentaries deal with the disabled as medical cases, sick and pathetic and have to be looked after. Not seen as equal T.V. reflects social reality. The biggest disability is bad practice attitudes and environment and not the physical conditions." ...read more.

Middle

Adult influence shapes them. > Children have an innate nature that is not easy to change > Children are naturally good Recently children have been portrayed in several roles in recent media coverage. Children as victims of sexual perverts e.g. paedophilia on the Internet and these are from "good, normal families." Also children are seen as " bad and uncontrollable" who are violent and disruptive within school, they are from disruptive, dysfunctional families" with "bad parenting." James and Prout (1990) see children as underdeveloped adults who are developing their own social world and culture. This may or may not work antagonistically with that of their parents and other adults but rather develops separately and is more self-contained. Television producers have recognized this and instead of presenters that are older like an aunty or uncle they have presenters that are only slightly older than themselves like an older brother or sister. A good example of this would be programmes such as Blue Peter. Geoffrey Pearson in Hooligan (1983) argues that while images of youth are predominately negative this is usually contrasted in the media with The Golden Age, where young people knew their place and there was less crime because people respected the police. ...read more.

Conclusion

Older actors were less likely to be perceived as good but were also less like to be involved in violent roles than younger characters. Approx. 70% of older men and 80% of older women were judged and held in low esteem and treated discourteously. Finally Biggs (1993) produces 5 trends in the representation of ageing: > Significant numbers of middle-aged + appear in prime-time soap operas. > Sitcoms in particular feature negative portrayals of 'doddery' old age. > Reverse stereotyping can occur such as Victor Meldrew. > Recent representations have shifted towards a more active view of the elderly. > The problems of age such as ill health and poverty do not tend to receive regular or prominent attention. In conclusion sociologists overall seem to agree that the media has a significant effect on the way we portray the disabled and ageism. From the evidence I have collected I feel that the media create rather than reflect on the images because if it wasn't for the ideologies and preconceptions that we have acquired from the media then we would have a neutral view of disability and age. If education on disability and age was better and people were more informed of their situations then they would be able to refute the images portrayed in the media and we would not have the stereotypical views that we possess today. ...read more.

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